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Assessing Erik Karlsson’s Norris Trophy hopes

Jan 30, 2012, 9:35 PM EDT

Erik Karlsson AP

The 2012 All-Star weekend was, in many ways, a celebration of Daniel Alfredsson‘s career with the Ottawa Senators.

Obviously, he wasn’t the only Senators representative in the event, though. Bruce Garrioch indicates that it was something of a coming out party for budding star defenseman Erik Karlsson, who might still seem like a relative unknown to many media members despite being far and away the leading scorer at his position.

That’s what happens when you’re in your third NHL season on a team that fell off the radar a bit after a tough 2010-11 season. Garrioch argues that Karlsson strengtened his Norris Trophy argument this weekend, so I thought it might be fun to break down how he compares to his peers in more traditional stat categories (sorry Corsi lovers).


Karlsson is a gifted point producer, starting with his assists. He has 40 in 51 games, which places him eight points ahead of Brian Campbell – the only other blueliner with more than 30 helpers at the moment. In fact he’s second in the entire league in assists.

His seven goals ties him for ninth amongst defensemen and he’s firing a ton of shots. In fact, he’s also first overall in shots on goal with 168; Dan Boyle is second with 157. Karlsson’s 4.2 shooting percentage could rise a little bit, too, although D-men generally pile up low-quality shots as they often aim to create dangerous rebounds in many cases.

There’s little reason to expect Karlsson to slow down much offensively as Ottawa plays in high-scoring games. Karlsson had 26 points in 60 games in his rookie season and 45 last year, so it’s clear that the 21-year-old is still improving in an already strong area.

Time on ice

It’s not like Karlsson is just swooping in on the power play and doing nothing 5-on-5, either. (Although his 4:06 minutes of PP time per game ties him for eighth overall with Ryan Suter.) Karlsson is 10th overall with 25:27 minutes per game, ranking him slightly ahead of Dion Phaneuf, Zdeno Chara and Drew Doughty.

The one area that hurts him – in my eyes, anyway – is that he’s not killing penalties. He only averages 41 seconds of PK time per contest.* If you ask me, a Norris-worthy blueliner should be a team’s go-to guy in nearly every situation.

Team success

Fair or not, my guess is that the Senators need to make the playoffs for Karlsson to have a real shot to win. I’d say that Ottawa is in the “second tier” in the East with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers as team’s who might fall short of division titles but should be safe for a postseason run as long as they avoid a total meltdown.


Overall, I think Karlsson has a solid Norris argument, with competitive total ice time, unparalleled offense and a respectable +5 rating. (I don’t like plus/minus, but voters do.) I’d probably lean toward a do-everything guy like Chara or Shea Weber instead, but wouldn’t be offended if he lands in the finalists group.

Where do you think Karlsson falls in the Norris argument right now?

* – Only Cam Fowler‘s 35 second average (24:05 minutes per game for 20th place) and Dustin Byfuglien‘s 43 second of shorthanded time per game (2:38 minutes per game at 30th place) compare to Karlsson’s scant PK time for top-30 time on ice guys.

  1. yettyskills - Jan 30, 2012 at 10:29 PM

    He’s not Weber, Chara or Lidstrom, therefore no on the Norris.

  2. stefano9319 - Jan 30, 2012 at 10:41 PM

    Has the potential of being a Norris trophy winner bit not yet there are still better d-men out there. Lindstrom will probably win

  3. sjsharksfan11 - Jan 30, 2012 at 11:44 PM

    So far he’s outplayed all the big names. Let’s see if he doesn’t fall off the second half.

  4. pastabelly - Jan 31, 2012 at 12:21 AM


  5. danphipps01 - Jan 31, 2012 at 12:31 AM

    He’ll win it soon enough if he keeps improving like this, but at this point I figure Weber’s got the strongest case. If he comes in third or fourth I won’t be at all surprised, though.

  6. brockohol - Jan 31, 2012 at 8:03 AM

    agreed that the Norris goes to the guy that’s on the ice in all situations. just ask yourself if your up by a goal with 30 seconds left and the faceoff is in your zone, would you put karlson out there?

  7. cshearing - Jan 31, 2012 at 8:16 AM

    He should definitely be considered, but winning it might be a bit of a long shot.

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